4 strategies for turning team goals into action items

JP Baertson
September 7, 2021
6
Minutes

4 strategies for turning team goals into action items


Team goals keep everyone aligned on priorities and accountable for action items. But not all goals are built alike, and without effective goal management that includes a variety of strategies with a different focus for each type of goal, team goals can easily fall by the wayside and be forgotten—until the next meeting, that is. 


Learn how to turn team goals into action items, the types of goals your team should set, and how to keep your team on track. 


Team goals vs. employee goals vs. company goals

Team goals differ from employee goals and company goals as they are specific to your team or division. Company goals are usually quite large and lofty, and team and employee goals support the achievement of the larger goals of the company. 


Employee goals can be checked on and measured during one on one meetings and have more to do with self-improvement and professional development. An employee goal is likely private to the employee and wouldn’t be discussed in a meeting that involves anyone other than their manager or the business owner. 


Team goals may also be discussed during a one on one but in the context of that employee’s individual performance. Team goals must be discussed as a team so that each member can align on expectations and hold each other accountable.


Turning team goals into action items

1. Set the right goals

The bigger and loftier the goal, the harder it is to turn into an action item. If a goal can’t easily be measured or achieved, it’s not benefiting your team. To effectively achieve your goals, they need to be grounded in reality, which is where the SMART framework comes in. 


SMART stands for: 


  • Specific 


  • Measurable 


  • Achievable 


  • Relevant


  • Time bound


First things first: your goals need to be specific, as in well-defined and unambiguous. A team’s goal can’t simply be “be more productive.” How can you be more productive? What’s one specific step in that direction? 


The goal also needs to be measurable. You can’t manage what you don’t measure. What are the specific criteria that signify progress toward your team goal? What metrics can everyone on the team agree upon? 


Your team needs to agree that the goal is actually achievable. Can you divide the goal into action items? Or is it so big that it inspires apathy and procrastination rather than motivation? A team needs to believe they can achieve the goal in order to be motivated to accomplish it. 


The goal needs to be relevant to the company’s larger goals. Team goal setting must always be tied to the goals of the company. How does your team’s goal further the interests of the business as a whole?


To ground team goals firmly in reality, they need to be time bound, meaning you must create and agree upon a timeline in which the goal will realistically be accomplished. A starting date and a target date inspire a sense of urgency, which will keep the goal from collecting dust on the shelf. 


2. Build an accountability plan


Clearly documenting action items is a best practice that many managers fail to implement. If commitments are made but ownership and due dates aren’t clearly assigned, it’s very unlikely that the work will be completed in line with everyone’s expectations. 


For a goal to be accomplished, team members need to own the different action items necessary to take the goal across the finish line. Nothing will be accomplished without building an accountability plan that clearly defines who is responsible for which task. 


📚 Accountability in the workplace improves employee performance, team morale, innovation, and trust throughout the organization. Learn how to build a culture of accountability

3. Plan for change

Change is inevitable, and while you can’t predict all the changes that will come, you can learn to expect the unexpected with change management. Change management is a collection of different approaches designed to prepare, support, and empower individuals and teams to embrace and successfully implement organizational change. 


A key aspect of this style of management is prioritizing adaptability. Through adaptability training, your team will learn critical skills like flexibility, problem solving, mindfulness, and unlearning


Goals and action items should never be set in stone as unforeseen circumstances can derail a project or make certain action items irrelevant. If a team’s action items are forced to change, don’t let your team freeze like a deer in the headlights. Your team must be able to adapt smoothly and roll with the punches in the face of change. 


📚 Learn more about the importance of adaptability in the workplace and how you can improve it

4. Remember to follow up

Follow up with your team regularly to ensure everyone stays on track. Consider implementing a short, daily meeting (or daily standup) in which the entire team can discuss what was accomplished the previous day and what should be tackled in the next 24 hours. 


Gathering the team together to discuss the progress made on the goal so far can increase team engagement and keep each team member accountable to one another. Setting a clear agenda and timeline for follow-up meetings ensures that the meeting is a great use of everyone’s time


In addition to setting a meeting for the entire team, utilize one on one meetings to check in with each of the individuals who make up your team. A one on one gives you both a chance to track progress, discuss any potential bottlenecks, and share constructive feedback in a lower stress context. These regular check-ins will help keep each team member accountable for the tasks they own and ensure you’re able to facilitate a collaborative, innovative, and adaptable environment.


Types of goals your team should set

Time-based goals

It’s a good idea for your team to discuss both long-term goals and short-term goals. A long-term goal is something inspiring to shoot for, whereas short-term goals are more specific, detailed, and actionable. When discussing time-based goals with your team, start by discussing and aligning on a few exciting long-term goals. Then turn the conversation toward the here and now. What’s one task your team can accomplish by the end of the current week that can act as a stepping stone toward your long-term goal? 


Time-based goals put things in perspective and provide a context for success. They create a sense of urgency that motivates a team to get moving and keep moving forward. 

BHAG - Big Hairy Audacious Goals

A BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal) is a long-term goal that intrigues, inspires, and energizes teams and employees to take action. Coined in the book Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies by Jim Collins and Jerry Porras, a BHAG isn’t something that’s going to be tackled and completed in a matter of months. Like the term suggests, a BHAG is a goal that could take a decade or more to reach. 


For example, in Star Wars, Princess Leia and the Rebellion’s BHAG is overthrowing the Imperial Empire. It won’t be completed with one battle or just by destroying a single Death Star; it’s a big, hairy, audacious goal that will include many smaller achievements along the way and take many years to accomplish. 


Your team’s BHAG should align with or be the same as the overall company’s BHAG, as your team may not remain completely the same over the course of ten or more years. 


Team development goals

It takes time to develop a solid team, especially if you’re managing a remote or distributed team. Team members need to adjust to each other’s communication preferences and working styles before they can effectively collaborate and communicate. 


It’s important to first understand where your team is currently and build from there. Does the team need to work on building trust with one another? Do they need to develop their communication skills through team building activities? Or, if your team has been together for some time, do you need to work on enhancing your adaptability? 


What stage of development is your team at right now? What do you need to do in order to further develop as a team? 


📚  The 5 stages of team development can help teams identify the current strengths of the team and how the team can develop further. Learn about the Stages of Team Development


Team goal setting done right with WorkPatterns

WorkPatterns' Goals feature makes team goals simpler
WorkPatterns' Goals feature makes team goals simpler

Managing team goals should include a variety of strategies with different focuses for each type of goal. WorkPatterns’ goal feature is flexible enough to handle those various and ever-evolving needs. 

Employee goal setting template


WorkPatterns provides One on Ones, Team Collaboration, Feedback, Recognition & Goals — all in one place. With WorkPatterns, goal setting is intuitive, easy to manage, lightweight, flexible, measurable, and results-oriented. 


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